Open House and My Love/Hate Relationship

My kids are funny at school. I know this because once a year our school district has an open house day where you can go sit in on your kids’ classes without looking helicopter-y and like THAT mom. Being THAT mom, I totally go to all my kids’ schools.

Monday of this week was this year’s open house. I learned a lot of things that day. Without further ado:

20 Things I Learned at This Year’s Open House:

1. It is extremely exhausting to visit all three of my special sugar-encrusted snowflakes in their natural habitats. I was at school as long as my kids were. Plus, I didn’t get to pee or eat during that time. Note: I like to both pee and eat more often than every six hours.

2. Before deciding on the order of attendance at each of my kids’ schools, I should have probably checked the hours of the open house. I lucked into choosing the right order, but it turns out that open house for one ended at noon and for another ended at 12:40. Thank goodness I had coincidentally made those stops one and two.

3. Jack is a participator. He raised his hand in both classes that I observed him in. Including math. Math! And he did it with no noticeable angst or blushing. I always thought that if my maternity were ever questioned it would be because of Quinn and his blond hair. Turns out it’s going to be because of Jack and his friendliness and class participation and deep thoughts about math.

4. It is entirely possible that Jack has been lying about not having English homework every night, because I heard in class about the English homework he had and he sure didn’t volunteer that information when he got home.

5. Quinn puts an overly dramatic, “BRO!” at the end of responses he gives to his (female) teacher after he gives an answer.

6. Quinn is extremely lucky that his teacher is cool.

7. Quinn is going to make a ceramic candle holder in art class.

8. Quinn plans to get rich by mass producing ceramic candle holders like the one he’s designing for art class. He also plans to force his friends to be his workforce.

9. It is extremely difficult to find a parking spot at Sam’s high school.

10. Few parents go to open house at Sam’s high school.

11. Even *I* was a little embarrassed to be going to open house at Sam’s high school.

12. It was totally worth it to go to open house at Sam’s high school, because Sam is cool and I really like the relationship that I am developing with teenager Sam.

13. Going to a high school during the school day was vaguely uncomfortable and made me feel bad for all the kids who have to deal with four years of high school. It gets better, kids!

14. Sam learned in biology that the stomach can comfortably hold 33 ounces. This made both of us wonder how he ate that 50-ounce steak when we were on vacation in Wisconsin. (Yes, he really did. You’ll hear about it if/when I am finally able to finish writing about summer vacation.)

Photo from behind of Sam sitting at a desk in biology class.

15. I will follow the rule of “no cell phones or photography during open house” until the end of the day when I’m tired and hungry and I think the teacher won’t catch me.

16. Stopping on the way home to buy food for you and your eating machine teenager will make you feel ever so much better.

17. I have three very amazing children who are so fantastically different and wonderful.

18. Even though part of me kinda hates open house day, part of me is so grateful for it.

19. Sorry, kiddos. I’m coming to open house day until the bitter end of Quinn’s senior year of high school.

20. I continue to be THAT mom.

Greedy and Unauthorized

I have a fat cat and a slender cat. And three other cats. (One of them is super ripped. We imagine her doing sit-ups while we sleep so she can get buff and keep the younger cats submissive. It’s working.)

Anyway, we have a fat cat…

Picture of a black and white cat sitting on a couch ottoman. She's sitting up kind of like a person but more like a cat who just recently stopped licking her butt.

Wait, what did you just say?

…and a slim cat.

Photo of a small black cat looking at the camera.


The fat cat is Oreo. She is named after a delicious cookie. She never had a chance. The thin cat is named Starfire. She’s always been tiny.

Anywho, we wanted to put Oreo on a diet because that level of pudge isn’t healthy for a cat and what with her and Quinn’s weird (so, so fucking weird) and absolute codependence, she can never die. To facilitate this, we asked the vet how to trim her down.

We feed our cats canned food morning and night (not a lot, but some) and free feed them kibble during the day. The vet suggested we only leave the kibble out for an hour or so in the morning and the evening. Which we did.

Picture of a black and white cat sitting on a couch ottoman. She's sitting up kind of like a person but more like a cat who just recently stopped licking her butt.


None of the cats much appreciated not having access to food at all hours of the day, but I was more concerned about Starfire than anyone. I kind of feel that she needs to have the ability to eat whenever she wants to. I mean, she is practically emaciated. When we restricted her food, she started doing things like eating crumbs and leaves off of the floor.

Because we didn’t want to starve Starfire to death and much to all five cats’ relief, we returned to our freefeeding ways.

Then one day I was sitting in the vet waiting room flipping through a magazine when I came across an ad for the SureFeed microchip feeding system. This “pet food bowl” or “bizarre archway to lunch” has a lid that folds back when it recognizes the microchip from a specific pet.

Photo of an orange cat eating out of a bowl. The bowl has an arch through which the cat has stuck his head. There is a clear lid folded back, giving the cat access to the food bowl.

Not our cat. Our cats are strictly bichromatic–not garish orange.

This was the answer! The pet shelter where we got our cats microchips all of their animals, so Starfire was all ready for this system. Once we purchased this bowl, Starfire could eat whenever she wanted to and Oreo could not.

We bought the bowl and I set about to reading the instructions, which were hilarious for many reasons, first of which is that they were very law and order with instructions that started with “If the pet is authorised and allowed to eat…”

Also you can tell that the instructions are fancy because they use an “s” in “authorized” instead of a “z.” Furthermore, this instruction book was clearly not written by someone whose first language is English, leading to fun subject headings like “Learning your pet into the feeder,” which is really just a couple of typos away from becoming some sort of animal horror snuff film.

There is a whole process involved in teaching your authorised pet to eat from this thing, first of which is getting the bowl to recognize that (and only that) cat. The way to do that is to push the “add pet” button on the back and then wait for your thin cat to poke her head through the arch while you lurk around trying not to scare her away from the feeder at the same time that you do try to scare away the unauthorised cat.

I didn’t want to stuff Starfire through the thing, thus ensuring that she would freak out and never go near the bowl again, but the instruction book told me that “no amount of waving your pet in front of the feeder will have an effect,” which could just have easily said, “Don’t be a dumbass about this, Stimey.”

I spent the better part of the day lurking near the food bowl with no success until my actions motivated Sam to prove he was better than me by luring Starfire into the archway, causing the bowl to recognize her. I was so relieved that he’d done it that I couldn’t even be annoyed by his smug little attitude.

I only added Starfire to the bowl because, let’s be honest, none of the rest of the animals really need to snack throughout the day. If I’d wanted to though, I could have added up to 32 pets as authorised eaters. I have lots of thoughts about someone who would need 32 pets on this thing. I also have thoughts about how sad it would be to be the 33rd pet.

My favorite part of the instructions, however, was one sentence about the cat this bowl is designed to keep out. It didn’t speak of the cat with the medically sensitive diet or the cat with slight self-control issues. It flat out fat shamed the fuck out of Oreo:

“If an unauthorised greedy pet tries to eat from the feeder when the lid is closed then the lid will simply not open.”

I like the lack of comma there which implies that the subject is a “greedy pet” modified by “unauthorised,” as opposed to a normal pet, modified by both “unauthorised” and “greedy.”

Picture of a black and white cat sitting on a couch ottoman. She's sitting up kind of like a person but more like a cat who just recently stopped licking her butt.


We spent close to a month moving through the training stages. At first you just leave the lid open, then you set it so it closes just a little, then more, then more and more. It’s pretty clever actually, getting them used to the short noise and movement gradually in something like five increments.

Two days ago, we were ready. I pushed the button that closed the lid on the bowl and waited to see if Starfire would manage to open the bowl and if Oreo would lose her shit completely. Yes on both counts.

Poor Oreo. I watched her look carefully through the clear plastic lid to the food beneath. She sniffed the feeder. She moved around to the front and nudged it with her nose. Clearly, she thought, this is broken. Somebody should fix this.

Then she clawed at the lid. She tried to bite the lid open. She stood on top of it to investigate the back of the lid perhaps in hopes that the open part was now on the back. Then she clawed and bit at the front of it again.

It was sad. I too have been pudgy and hungry myself and it sucks.

I literally just now heard the bowl open and I looked into the feeding area only to see Oreo kind of nudging Starfire out of the way so she could get to the food. She got just about one mouthful before the lid shut on her.

Again, very sad.

Photo of three cats near the feeder, an empty bowl, and a water dish. Oreo looks a little desperate.

If cats could speak, two of these would be saying, “It is 8:38 for chrissakes, it is well fucking past dinnertime.” The third one would not be saying that. Because it is always dinnertime for her. Plus, she doesn’t use curse words.

Maybe if you could be less greedy and unauthorised, you could eat at lunchtime too, Oreo.

Picture of a black and white cat sitting on a couch ottoman. She's sitting up kind of like a person but more like a cat who just recently stopped licking her butt.

I hope you all feel good about yourselves.

I’m so glad I am not a cat, subject to the whims and laughter of my owners.

Both Sides of the Water Stop

You know how I won’t shut up about my running-induced hip injury? Well, you should know that it hasn’t just led to me being a whiny, whiny cry baby. It has also led to volunteerism and giving back to the running community and forcing my family to suffer right along with me.

I had three races in a one-week period that I wanted to be involved with last month. I intended to run two of them and volunteer at another, but after my body rebelled, I knew I couldn’t run my originally planned 33 miles of racing–or even my plan B of 23 miles of racing–in a week.

The race that got the cut was the Parks Half Marathon, which I ran once and cheered at once, and fell at three times. I deferred my entry to next year (dammit, now I have to run it next year) and signed up instead to work at a water station.

I have benefited from very many water stations in my running career. There is rarely one that I pass without partaking. Sometimes I even take two cups. Water is gooooood. Yet I didn’t know what it was like on the other side of the table.

Photo of me standing in front of a row of tables with hundreds of small cups on them.

Yes, I realize in this photo that I am still on the runner side of the table, but to serve my metaphor, let’s pretend that I’m on the other side.

The great thing is that the woman who was in charge of the water stop had been doing it for years and totally had a plan and kept us organized and efficient and there were plenty of us there to keep everything moving smoothly. I’ve run past water stops where the volunteers were in a state of panic trying to fill up cups not quite keeping up with demand. It always looks like not a lot of fun when that happens. I’m happy to report that that was not us.

I helped pass out and pour the Gatorade. You know what word loses all its meaning after you say it sixteen thousand times? “Gatorade.”

The next race I was involved in was the Kensington 8K. I love that race. When I started running in 2012, it was the first race I ran. I was sooooo slow. And it was really hard. But I did it and I was so proud of myself and I have run it every year since then. This year I had signed up for a 20-mile race the day after the Kensington 8K, so I knew I couldn’t run it.

I decided to volunteer to course marshal the course during the race because that seemed like the most fun and easiest thing to do. Then I remembered that my kids are forced to do volunteer hours to graduate from high school, so I signed the whole family up to help with the night-before-the-race cone-drop. That entailed sitting in the back of a pickup truck and throwing cones out on the sidewalk at intersections along the course route for course marshals to set out the next morning.

The cone-delivery truck was late getting the cones to us, so my kids learned about how they could earn volunteer hours by swinging at the playground while waiting for other people to do their jobs.

Selfie of my family by a brick wall with a poster on it that says "Run the race." I've managed to cut off half of most of their faces.

Just because I cut much of each of them out of the photo doesn’t mean I don’t love them.

Finally the cones arrived and we set out. I sat in the front of the truck with a race director and shouted out how many cones Alex, my kids, and the race director’s kids needed to drop off the back of the truck.

Photo of Sam, Quinn, Jack, and Alex sitting in the back of a truck in front of a big pile of orange traffic cones.

Before. See how Alex doesn’t look even a little bit like he wanted to kill me? That would change.

I think the kids had a lot of fun. I don’t know if they’ve ever ridden in the back of a pickup truck, which is–let’s be honest here–one of the most fun things in the world. Plus we had flashing lights rotating on the top of the truck and they got to jump in and out of the vehicle. It was all kinds of great.

Alex, on the other hand, had all kinds of complaints: “That flashing light is really disorientating.” “That guy needs to stop accelerating so fast.” “That traffic cone distinctly smelled like shit.” “I might barf.”

There is really no pleasing the man.

The next day I sauntered off to claim my intersection, which was a really important intersection because I had to send the runners off in one direction toward a turn-around and then make sure they headed off in a third direction on their way back. This was complicated by the fact Ragnar DC took place that weekend and my intersection was where those two races collided–going opposite directions. It was exciting.

An empty intersection with traffic cones spread out.

My baby.

I really could have used a couple of extra cones though. Someone should have told the cone-droppers that. I had a cop with me as well because I was at the edge of the course and evidently they don’t want cars careening through the course. Prior to the race, I did have a couple of irate car drivers. I had a bunch of really nice car drivers who understood that the roads were closed and/or closing, but there were two who were visibly and verbally annoyed–both of them told me they had to get to a church. Ironic.

It was very enjoyable to point people to the right direction and cheer them on. At one point I was cheering on this kinda confused-looking kid who wandered off shortly thereafter only to be brought back to me by a nearby homeowner who was all, “So this guy was supposed to be running the 1K fun run and got lost.”

That kid was almost two miles into the race. I told him he pretty much won. I had a little interior discussion with myself (the mental equivalent of walking in confused circles) while I considered sending him back along the race course with instructions to go from course marshal to course marshal and whether this constituted an “emergency” that meant I could call the race directors like my instruction sheet told me. I finally decided to keep him with me and instructed him to cheer for the runners after I determined that, yes, a lost kid is an emergency and I called a race director and told her I had a lost kid.

(Yes, the instinct to avoid phone calls is strong in me.)

The race director tracked down his parents who eventually showed up after the last runners had passed. They were very grateful. Apparently they had moved to the area a couple of weeks ago and they were walking the fun run, but their kid wanted to run it so they told him to follow the other people and ZOOM! suddenly he’d run three fun runs.

I’m not going to lie; I felt a little bit like a hero.

After all of that, I finally got to run a race the next day. That race, Revenge of the Penguins, has a 20-mile version and a 10-mile version. I had originally signed up for the 20-miler, but stepped it back to ten miles after my injury. Even that was a little bit of a stretch. I hadn’t come close to running ten miles at one time in weeks. I was determined to get the race jacket that came with my registration though.

A red jacket with a round patch on it. The patch has the name of the race and a running penguin.

I love this jacket. That penguin is exactly what I’d look like running if I were a penguin.

I ran that race so goddamn slow. But I ran it. It was a beautiful canal-side course that was mostly flat. The last couple of miles super sucked, but I ran ’em. And I said thank you to every single person who handed me a cup of water or Gatorade.

Selfie of me post-run.

After. I was a little sweaty.

It was a super well-organized race in a beautiful location with super nice volunteers. If all goes as I hope, I intend to triumphantly return next year to do the 20-miler.

I also intend to continue volunteering at races. Because there’s nothing like getting to hang out at a race with other runners and not having to run. In fact, it may be the perfect solution.

That said, five days from now I have another race–the Army Ten Miler. I hope to run this one faster than snail speed. Wish me luck!


Gosh, look how time flies. You look up and all of a sudden three weeks have passed, summer has turned to fall, it’s October, and all your great intentions to write stuff last month have fallen to dust. Let’s catch up, shall we?

I spent most of last month withdrawing from drugs. I had an antidepressant medication change, which has led (happily!) to the removal of Lexapro from my daily regimen. Have any of you done that? Well, I can tell you that it is un-fucking-pleasant. Lots of lightheadedness, irritability, and—my favorite—face tingling. Urgh. I’m in the lucky segment whose symptoms have lasted for multiple weeks. It’s super great.

Now that you know that I’ve been off balance for the past month-plus, it seems like a good time to tell you that I bought a bike. You probably don’t need to feel stable for that, right?

I decided that it was time for me to add some sort of cross training to my workout schedule, partly because my physical therapist told me it would be good for me and partly because I saw the words “cross training” on my marathon training calendar and I was all, “Huh, maybe I should find a way to actually do this.” Also, I was worried about my hip injury and thinking that I should come up with another way to exercise if I could never run again.

Unfortunately, I had no idea how to buy a bike. I had vivid images of me entering a bike shop, walking in confused circles for a few minutes, bursting into tears, and leaving—maybe after having fallen in an unbalanced heap onto the floor. Fortunately, my friend Sherry was passing through town and she had a few hours to spend with me. Seeing as how she is the person in the world who knows more about cycling than anyone I know (and probably anyone you know), I made her take me to a bike shop to help pick out a bike. For most people that might have been the most obnoxious thing to do to an out-of-town guest, but Sherry said that it seemed like the most fun thing to do and as it behooved me, I chose to believe her.

We spent a solid two hours at my local bike shop where I learned about everything from making sure your bike helmet has a hole for your ponytail to the difference in width of pelvic bones in men and women and how that relates to bike seats. Then we test rode a bunch of expensive bikes around the parking lot of a homeless shelter, which felt a little troubling, but that was the parking lot at hand.

They didn’t have the bike in stock that I ended up deciding on, so I left clutching a business card on which Sherry had written the specifications of the bike I wanted. I ordered it a couple of weeks later and kind of wish I still had Sherry with me because the questions the clerk heaved at me were hard: Do you want red or black? What kind of lock do you want? You should probably buy all these accessories; which accessories do you want? This little bell is really loud, but this one is shaped like a coffee cup; which do you choose?

(Red. The one the guy recommended. Just a water bottle cage. I don’t drink coffee, so the loud one.)

I was concerned when the guy asked me if I wanted matte red or black because I thought a red bike would be like a rolling invitation to steal. In fact, Sherry had schooled me on how to make a new, expensive bike look old and crappy so no one would take it. But red seemed sooooo much more fun than black. So I chose the red.

OMG YOU GUYS IT IS THE FLASHIEST, MOST FLAMBOYANT BIKE I COULD EVER HAVE CHOSEN. I can never lock this thing up out of my sight because it shines like the sun. I’ve been watching bike racks and there are NO bikes the color of mine locked up on them. Probably because they’ve already been jacked.

Me from the side riding a RED! bike.

It doesn’t look quite so shocking from this far away, but trust me, it is BRIGHT.

Although I am now a certified bike owner, I should admit that I am terrified of riding bikes. I haven’t regularly ridden a bike since I was a teenager—and even then I didn’t ride them all that much. Fortunately, there is someone in my family who is similarly nervous and new at cycling, so Quinn and I headed out to a parking lot near our house last weekend and rode in circles.

I didn’t fall once! Neither did Quinn!

Tomorrow (on my marathon training cross training day) I plan to do a two-mile loop that passes the market where I can buy a soft serve ice cream cone. (A suitable reward for taking my life into my hands, I’d say.) I’m going to have to go down a hill—with speedbumps. *nervous face* Then I’m going to have to push the bike back up the hill. *out-of-shape face*

Photo of me riding close to the camera.

Also, bike helmets are the WORST, but I like my brain, so I’ll wear one. Sherry always looks super cute in hers. I don’t know why I look like a blue ladybug.

Another thing that has happened in September is that school started. Sam is in high school now and seems to be doing all right. He’s doing stuff like learning to speak Chinese and doing math that is far beyond my abilities. Jack and Quinn are also doing math that is far beyond my abilities. (I’m not very good at math. My skills lie elsewhere.)

Jack and Quinn are in the same schools they were in last year, so there has been no major upheaval for either of them, which is great, because next year both of them will be upheaved and in two entirely new schools, both to them and to me.

Speaking of which, I swear to God, being a parent and having to learn a new school is awful. Really, really awful. I kind of took the last couple of years off from being super involved in my kids’ schools, but I decided that high school is the time to get back into it. One music boosters meeting at Sam’s school and I remember why I’m not really a “joiner.”

I’m sticking it out though. I am going to Be Involved if it kills me. (It might.)

I also have a new Homework Check-in System™ for my kids. It’s an upgrade from me asking them when they get home if they have homework and them lying to my face and saying no only to freak out at bedtime or the next morning before school when they remember that they lied to me and they have to do ALL THEIR HOMEWORK RIGHT NOW OMIGOD!

This being the beginning of the school year, I am all motivated and determined that this? This is the year we’re going to do it right! Seriously though, we’re maybe five weeks into the school year and Homework Check-in is officially the worst.

I’m chugging away at it though. Every stupid night I sit at the table and make my kids bring me their binders and we check their grades and email and Google Classroom and I help them study and I sit there while they do their homework and my hope is that eventually this will become habit and what they are used to doing all the time and thus Homework Check-in will have taught them to be effective and productive students.

I had a similar program I instituted at the end of last year that I called Executive Function Friday (also ™) that I started after hearing a story on NPR about executive function coaches who helped students organize and prioritize their homework and after having an immediate reaction of I SHOULD SPEND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON A COACH FOR MY KIDS, I realized that this is something I could do sorta easily myself and for free.

I know you all are like, “Oh, you are now reminding your kids to do their homework and making sure they do it and you somehow think this is revolutionary?”

Yes. Yes, I do.

Quinn and Jack at a kitchen table. They are both looking at computers.

Two of my subjects diligently trying to convince me their homework is complete. They are lying.

I can’t even tell you the executive functioning skills required for this. My kids have 27 classes amongst them. Twenty-seven.* It is awful. I have been coloring to keep myself busy without doing something that takes too much of my attention like reading or crushing candy while they work. I mean, that candy isn’t going to crush itself, but that’s what I do instead of blogging now, so it will still get done. Promise.

I think we’re largely caught up on September now. Oh, except for now that I have a high schooler, I have to go to things like the teen drinking town hall I attended last night. It was terrifying. I walked out of there having learned three things: (1) It is a miracle I survived college mostly unscathed what with my unhealthy drinking habits, (2) All the teenagers are in extremely imminent danger, and (3) I have to buy locks for all my liquor storage areas immediately! Like yesterday.

I was in a golden period of parenting for a while where all my kids were old enough to dress themselves and buckle their own seatbelts, but they were still under my control and/or supervision at all times. That’s starting to change what with Sam off riding the public transportation system with his friends and going to movies with them and going places where I am not. And—if the professionals from this town hall meeting are to be believed—evidently buying and using cocaine and Red Bull. It’s scary. There is a lot to shepherd kids through during their teenage years. There is so much they have to deal with. And it’s a lot of hard work. I mean, it’s worth it and all because my kids are the best and all, but geez.

So that’s it. I am off to crush some candy now while I let the computer and television parent my children. That isn’t counterintuitive to everything I’ve just said at all, is it? I have some posts percolating in my head, so hopefully it won’t be another month before I show up again. ‘Til then, Happy October!


* I was proofreading this post and I had to get out a piece of paper and scribble some figures on it and count on my fingers and then pull out a calculator, but I discovered that three kids times seven classes each equals twenty-one. So my problems are nowhere near as bad as I thought they were. Except I turn out to be perilously unqualified to perform even the most basic of calculations.

Vacation All I Ever Wanted, Wisconsin Edition, Part II

You guys, school has already started and I just realized that I never finished my What I Did Over Summer Vacation essay.

When last you saw us, we were departing the hectic pace of hanging out by the big lake to discover the peaceful pace of hanging out by a little lake in northern Wisconsin. Alex’s mom’s house is between those two lakes, so on our drive past, we stopped by to say hello, eat all of her food, and play with objects that were thirty years old or older.

Photo of Sam and Jack playing with old plastic soldiers, cars, and airplanes.

Sam and Jack don’t normally do a lot of creating epic battles with toy soldiers, but they enthusiastically did so with Alex’s old toys.

Photo of Jack holding the spaceman LEGO guy.


Jack pretending to talk on an old-fashioned rotary phone.

Jack also traveled into the past via his grandma’s old-fashioned phone. (Don’t worry, she has a regular phone AND a cell phone as well.)

From there, we continued our drive north until we reached the shores of Van Vliet Lake, otherwise known as The Most Peaceful Place on All of Earth.

Jack and Quinn sitting on a small wooden boat dock on a lake.

You know, until we arrived.

Van Vliet Lake is about 20 miles away from a small town where you can get ice cream and about 40 minutes away from a bigger town where you can get doughnuts. (This is how my family thinks about places.) The morning after we arrived, we headed to the bigger town for breakfast and to visit the local wildlife park/petting zoo, because if there is anything Team Stimey likes better than water play, it is animals.

Certain members of Team Stimey were irate about being forced to participate in an away-from-the-cabin activity (*cough*Quinn*cough*), but once we got there and discovered baby goats, everybody got on board.

Alex was still paying our entry fee when the rest of us wandered through the door into the goat yard where Jack was immediately and viciously attacked by a goat.

Jack in a crab position on the ground with a small goat standing on top of him.

Seriously, that goat targeted Jack instantly upon his arrival. It tried to eat his shirt. Please note Quinn’s hand reaching in to pet the aggressor.

Those goats were probably the greatest things to ever exist. I actually think it would really behoove Team Stimey to acquire a pack (a herd? a swarm? a nibble?) of goats all for ourselves. Our grass would always be short and we could feed them our tin cans. Win win.

Photo of Quinn sitting on a rock wall. A goat is crawling on him. He looks ecstatic.

We could also have this ALL THE TIME.

I wanted to start our herd by smuggling this particular guy into my bag. He got all up in my space. I love him.

Photo of a goat center frame. I am smiling in the background.

I believe I mentioned this on Facebook, but this goat was a total attention hog.

I don’t know what this next animal is, but Jack walked up to it and said, “Hey look, Mom, it’s you!”

Photo of some sort of furry animal lying listlessly on a bench in a cage.

Evidently I should take fewer naps around my kids. They’re starting to notice my habits.

This wildlife park/zoo had lots of really fun animals to pet. We petted pigs and skunks and opossums. Jack and Quinn also went into the bunny hutch where we discovered that some of my kids have better bunny-holding skills than other someones.

Photo of Jack and Quinn each holding bunnies. Jack is supporting all of his bunny's body. Quinn has somehow folded his bunny in half.

I don’t think bunnies are supposed to fold like that, Quinn.

Two photos: 1) Jack properly holding a bunny by supporting its legs and butt 2) Quinn improperly holding a bunny by supporting everything other than its legs and butt.

Which rabbit would you rather be?

Next it was off to the deer enclosure where we competed with toddlers to attract some seriously overfed deer.

Sam feeding a deer with antlers pellets from his hand.

These deer get fed all day every day so they had little interest in us.

The deer thing was okay though because this particular place also had a budgie feeding barn. If you’ve never been to a budgie feeding barn (and you don’t find birds weird and scary what with their calm, evaluating eyes, sharp beaks, and cryptic head bobs), you should go to a budgie feeding barn. Now. Like today.

Unlike the deer, the budgies are always hungry.

Photo of Sam holding a popsicle stick with seeds stuck to it. There are four birds on the stick and in his hands. Jack is in the background with one bird on a stick. He is petting the bird.

I’d like you to notice Jack there in the background petting his bird. He seemed to go for quality over quantity. Sam was the opposite.

I had one little guy stay with me the whole time we were there. He was determined to get every last seed.

Photo of me holding my stick with a bird on it and two others on my arm.

I wanted to stuff them in my bag with the goat. That might not have turned out well for anyone.

When we first walked in and purchased our budgie feeding sticks, Alex was all, “Pshaw, budgie feeding…pfft,” and he didn’t get a stick like he was too good for the fucking budgies in his top hat and monocle and snooty attitude.

But then a budgie landed on his shoulder and, much like his children before him, he was one hundred percent on board.

Alex with a bird on his shoulder and a huge grin on his face.

Alex bonded quickly and completely with that budgie.

Which made it even worse when Quinn stole Alex’s bird and put it on his own shoulder.

A series of four photos wherein Quinn is putting the bird from the previous photo with Alex onto his shoulder and looking pretty fucking pleased with himself.

Look at Quinn’s smug little face. Needless to say, Alex was devastated.

Alex got his revenge though by paying five bucks for a giraffe-feeding experience that resulted in Quinn’s entire face getting mopped by a giraffe tongue.

Photo of Quinn with a carrot sticking out of his teeth. A giraffe has its tongue out and is grabbing the carrot with the tongue.

I think moments like this are why people have kids.

Not all members of Team Stimey chose to feed the giraffes via the mouth to mouth option.

Photo of my three kids with carrots next to giraffe heads. Jack is handing a carrot to a giraffe.

Who’s a good giraffe?

From there, we fed some more goats and some giant fish and then headed back to our cabin, where we took the first of very many boat rides we would take over the next few days. There is both a rowboat and a canoe at the cabin. For our first outing, we all piled into the rowboat.

Two photos: 1) Alex from behind rowing with Jack and Sam sitting in the back of the boat 2) selfie of Quinn and I at the other end of the boat.

One of these photos represents the end of the boat that never even thought about helping to row. Guess which one.

We came up to this lake for several years before any of our kids asked to go swimming in it. Last time we were here, that all changed. This year, Jack and Quinn were ready on Day One.

Quinn swimming.

I didn’t join them because, you know, lakes. God only knows what is living down there…algae…turtles…lake monsters.

Jack upped the ante by being the first member of Team Stimey to go skinny dipping. Here is a photo of Jack in the water and Alex wringing out his swimsuit on the boat.

Jack hanging off the side of the boat. Only his head is visible.

If lake swimming seemed unwise to me, naked lake swimming seemed worse, but who am I to stop him? (If you say “his mom,” well, you might be right.)

Sam was not interested in lake swimming, naked or otherwise, but he was super interested in rowing boats, something that I think Alex, a.k.a. the Designated Rower, has been waiting for for a decade.

Sam (from behind) rowing the boat. Alex is looking at him proudly.

You can almost read Alex’s thought bubble: “Aw, Sam is so grown up. Where did the time go?”

But the rowboat wasn’t enough. After Jack and Alex tired of boating, Sam, Quinn, and I headed back out, this time in the canoe.

Photo taken from the back of the canoe of Sam in front with a paddle and Quinn sitting in the middle.

I had a paddle too, but I sat in the back so Sam wouldn’t know when I was slacking. Quinn didn’t even pretend to help.

The three of us had a very good time and many adventures whilst canoeing about the lake, but the most photogenic one was when we accidentally paddled too close to a family of loons and seriously pissed off one of them. Once I saw what was happening, I made Sam row away. And I took photos while the loon strutted about back and forth in front of us.

Five photos: 1. Photo from in the canoe of Sam and Quinn; in front of us is a family of three loons 2. Close up of family of loons--2 adults one baby 3. one loon swimming away from the other two 4. That loon spreading his wings and making a big ol' fuss in the water 5. Same loon puffing out his chese and sticking up out of the water.

All right, all right, we get the message, Mr. Loon.

Eventually we returned to the cabin but Sam hadn’t had enough. He dropped us off and headed out by himself, which went against every overprotective parenting instinct I have, but because he’s a teenager, he took his phone with him, so we were still able to contact him if necessary.

Photo taken from land of Sam in a canoe rowing away from land.

In retrospect, maybe it was less about getting out to canoe and more about getting away from his overprotective mom.

The next day we headed out in the boats again, but this time we took both boats out at the same time, Sam and I in the canoe and the other three in the rowboat. They were doin’ some fishin’. We were avoiding worms.

Photo taken from the back of a canoe. Sam is paddling in front and in the distance are the other three in the rowboat.

We were speedier than them too, which was fun.

While we started out in that configuration, only Sam and Alex remained in their respective boats. Eventually Jack and Quinn bailed from their boat to swim and I was transferred from the canoe to the rowboat for some reason that I don’t remember.

Selfie of Alex and I on the rowboat.

Maybe it was to spend time with Alex.

It sure wasn’t for the fish.

Photo of Alex fishing in the rowboat. On his hook is a big bunch of seaweed.

Nice catch, Alex!

The cabin we stay at when we visit here is one that Alex’s grandfather built a looooong time ago. It’s an A-frame house right on the shore of the lake and comes with the added bonus of a nearby aunt that we were able to visit.

We had a picnic with said aunt (and her husband) at an entirely different lake. She brought Yahtzee and watercolor paint and paper and…my kids set about painting their arms. Because we’re us. And we’re problematic.

Two photos 1. Jack holding out his arm on which he's written I [heart] job 2. Sam holding up his arm. On it is a rainbow and a heart.

I still don’t know what Jack intended, but Sam’s is his status quo art.

I did get this perfectly posed photo of my compliant children out of it though.

Photo of me and my kids standing in a line. No one is looking at the camera. Sam has Jack in a headlock, but Jack was making a face anyway. Quinn has his arms around me and i am looking down at him.

I still kinda love it though.

Another high point was visiting the town’s community garden, which is absolutely gorgeous.

Photo of my family and Alex's aunt looking at her garden plot.

I’m glad that our family doesn’t garden in a community setting, because our garden is not as pretty or tidy as the gardens there.

We continued our S’more in Every Hand and a Hand in Every S’more policy—wait, maybe not exactly that, but we continued to eat a lot of s’mores, these being the northern indoor s’mores.

Photo of Alex sitting next to an indoor fireplace cooking s'mores.

Wherever we make them though, it’s always Alex doing the work. Clearly he loves it.

We had big plans for the following day, so we made sure to eat a big breakfast at Paul Bunyan’s which is not only awesome because of its fun statuary, but is also a Pokestop with a perpetual lure.

Photo of my kids next to a big statue of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox.

We go there primarily for their sugar-covered doughnuts.

But what were our big plans, you ask? Well, Team Stimey was going to go river kayaking.

*ominous pause*

What could possibly go wrong?

*another ominous pause followed by raucous laughter*

We’d found this place that would drive us and our kayaks upriver to drop us off and we would then kayak back down until we got to their landing. Alex had looked at their offerings and was all, “Ooooh, this two and a half hour option looks fun,” and I was like, “We’ll be doing the one-hour trip, thank you very much.”

Thank the good lord and his sweet baby Jesus that Alex ended up agreeing with me.

The kayak dude put Sam and Quinn in the water first, which might have been a mistake, because they were not interested in waiting for the rest of us, but I was all, “Oh, well Sam will take care of Quinn. They’ll be fine.”

*ominous pause*

It was just before the guy shoved me in the water that one of us asked how many of us were likely to capsize and he was like, “Oh, you’d have to work pretty hard to turn one of these things over.”

*ominous pause*

While I trust in Sam, I’m not a total fool, so I quickly paddled down the river to make sure he and Quinn were okay.

The tip of my kayak, a river, and Quinn and Sam in their individual kayaks.

They were hunky dory, happy, and kayaking through a scenic vista.

Having made sure they were okay, I paddled a little bit back upriver to check on Jack and Alex. Jack was fine and paddling away although getting tired of working his arms so hard, which would become more of a problem the farther into our trip that we went.

Photo of Jack smiling in his kayak.

I got very used to saying, “You’re doing great! Keep paddling! I know it’s hard! You’re doing great! You have to paddle, Jack! You’re doing great! Unless you want to live in your kayak, keep paddling! You’re doing great!”

Alex, meanwhile, was busy taking on water after grounding himself on a mid-river rock and nearly tipping over, or, as the kayak guy would have said, “working hard to capsize.”

He didn’t capsize, but he did get to sit in water for the rest of the trip.

All of this in the first five minutes.

*ominous pause followed by ominous music*

Midway through, the river opened up into a small lake where I spent a fair amount of time shouting and herding my family so that I could get a shot of all five of us.

Selfie of me with the rest of my family in kayaks in the background.

The way I imagined this photo turning out was very different than the way it actually did. My imaginary photo involved a straight line of kayaks and a smiling family. I’m not sure why I thought we could accomplish this in tiny individual boats when we can’t even manage it standing on dry ground.

From here, Sam and Quinn took off again, but by this time I was sure they’d be fine as they had proven themselves to be excellent and responsible kayakers.

*ominous mus—oh never mind. You know.*

At some point Alex, Jack and I rounded a bend in the river to find both Sam and Quinn standing on a riverside dock with their kayaks floating nearby. Quinn was noticeably wet.

We would later find out that we were the first capsize of the season, so I guess that’s something. Evidently Sam had intentionally rammed Quinn repeatedly resulting in his overturning and proving that Sam is not to be fucking trusted. Fortunately the river wasn’t deep, they were both safe, and they had rescued the kayak. Unfortunately, the thing had filled with water and that was turning into a HUGE problem.

We spent a lot of time trying to empty the kayak, which is incredibly difficult to do, especially if you don’t want to get wet.

Four pictures 1. Sam and Quinn on the dock 2. Sam trying to lift up the kayak to dump out the water 3. sam on the dock and Alex in the kayak trying to help 4. drawing of Alex's head exploding.

I don’t have a photo of the moment that Alex’s head exploded, so I drew it for you.

Eventually Quinn had to get back into a kayak partially filled with water.

Photo of Quinn and Sam in their kayaks. Quinn looks pissed.

In retrospect, we should have made Sam use that kayak.

Even Sam felt bad. At some point, Quinn refused to continue paddling, so Alex and I created a boat formation wherein Quinn didn’t have to paddle. We held on to each other so we were three across and we each paddled to only one side. It was onerous, but better than leaving Quinn behind and starting anew as a family of four.

Photo of me, Quinn, and Alex lined up in our boats. Downriver you can see Jack holding his paddle over his head.

Quinn wasn’t ready to admit for the record that it wasn’t the worst way to travel down a river. Also notice Jack downriver with his paddle over his head. He traveled much of the river that way.

I tell you, no five people have ever been so happy as we were to find our landing dock. We headed back to the cabin where the rest of the family decompressed and I departed for a 12-mile run into town.

Because reasons.

Said run was hot and exhausting and I ran out of water only to come upon a park with a drinking fountain at mile eleven. But it was this:

Photo of a metal pump action water fountain.


I have never been so sad in my life. This wasn’t even just a pumping water fountain. There was some sort of tank and some incredibly unclear instructions molded onto the thing and it took at least two hands to operate leaving no hands to hold my water bottle there and it was at about this point that I called Alex and asked him to pick me up.

We went out to dinner that night, which I mention only because we were sitting outside on the deck near yet another lake and I saw a shape bobbing in the water and I yelled really loudly, “HEY LOOK! A SEA LION!” and my family and every other family seated outside turned to look and because sea lions don’t live in lakes, we all realized that it was a dog playing fetch with a ball that his person kept throwing into the water.

I am maybe the most embarrassing person in the world.

We were leaving the next day, but before we did, we wanted to have our traditional lunch on the little island that Alex used to row to when he was a kid. We gathered all the food we had left, creating an absolutely ridiculous picnic lunch, and set off to the island.

Even though both Sam and Quinn claimed they were done with watercraft after the prior day’s kayaking experience, they headed out together in the canoe while, Jack, Alex, and I departed in the rowboat.

Two photos: 1. Jack in the rowboat with Alex rowing 2. Quinn and Sam in the canoe.

We kept Sam and Quinn in our sight though. You know. Just in case.

It was a beautiful day and it took about 20 minutes to approach the small island.

A little island with tall trees on it. The canoe is off to the side.

Wisconsin is pretty.

We had a delightful lunch of leftover milk, pancakes, doughnuts, corn chips, carrots, and maybe a sandwich or two.

Selfie of the five of us at our picnic.

We guarantee our kids food. We don’t guarantee them tasty or edible food.

Sam wanted to canoe back by himself, which was cool with everyone. It was a long way, but we’d be nearby and we figured it wouldn’t be a problem. Sam paddled off, we loaded the rowboat, and we eventually found him texting from his canoe.

Sam in his canoe, looking at his phone.

All was well.

Alex was paddling the rowboat and we might have been chasing a bald eagle or something, so we ended up drifting off a ways. Jack and Quinn jumped in to swim and we were enjoying our leisurely return to shore.

Photo of Jack and Quinn in the water smiling happily at each other.

I love how much joy Jack and Quinn get from each other. (Also, see Sam waaaaaay in the distance.)

Selfie of me at the front of the boat. Jack is hanging from the front.

I also enjoy how much joy *I* get from them.

Unfortunately, while all this cavorting was going on, the wind was picking up. Also unfortunately, it was blowing against where we were rowing. I started to receive ever angrier texts from Sam complaining that he couldn’t row anywhere. We were watching him struggling and started to get a little concerned. I texted him to find his way to us and I would join him in the canoe and help him get back to the cabin.

Then I wrote, “Sam’s Epic Battle Against the Wind!” into a text and he flipped the fuck out. I thought we were being funny and amused by the pickle in which we found ourselves. He, on the other hand, was merely furious.

Nonetheless, he was able to get to us and I climbed into his canoe and the two of us together were able to fight our way to the dock. It was tough going though. I can understand why he was having such a hard time by himself.

Meanwhile, Jack and Quinn were swimming back but staying near Alex’s boat for safety and Alex was working really hard all by himself to return home. Sam and I, with the two of us on an aerodynamic boat, were able to make good time and we arrived well before Alex did.

Sam went inside to curse at the boat from a distance as I watched Alex’s slow progress.

Alex looking exhasted giving a thumbs up as he arrived at the dock.

I am happy to report that he eventually arrived back to the dock.

Then we packed our car and got the fuck out of dodge. Our next stop was the Wisconsin Dells, where we would join a million other tourists participating in many activities, none of which involved piloting a watercraft.

That post is coming soon. Before Thanksgiving at least.

The Best 5.5 Miles

If you’re not a runner or don’t care about running, feel free to skip this post.

Photo of me in the dark after a run.

Me after tonight’s run. Hey, did you know it gets dark at 8pm these days? I didn’t.

I haven’t told you how bad it had gotten.

I think I told you that I was having a lot of hip pain and I was going to a physical therapist and an orthopod, but I didn’t tell you how much it hurt or how depressed I was about it or how I was worried that I was never going to run again.

I’ve had to defer a race until next year. I had to switch my upcoming 20-mile race to the 10-mile option. I was starting to worry about whether I’d be able to run any of the races I’d registered for this fall.

I’ve barely run for such a long time. I could practically feel my fitness draining away.

I had two cortisone shots a week apart and I didn’t run at all for many days, as instructed. I even waited a couple of extra days before running because I was scared that I would try and not be able to. See, even after the shots and even with complete rest, it still hurt just walking around. It’s not even that I cared about the pain—except when I was running.

I finally went out this past Monday. The hip didn’t really hurt, but it was weak. And felt…off. Running was really tiring. I just did a couple of miles and those were run/walk intervals. I was trying to be smart, so I took a day off, then did a slightly longer interval run on Wednesday. Same deal with the hip.

Both of those runs were haaaard. I don’t know if it was that I was out of practice or that my hip was weak or that it was ninety fucking degrees, but I was discouraged. I knew that I could get back, but I figured that it would take a really long time. I started to worry that I’d be doing three-mile runs for months.

I rested another day and today I went on a longer run. I was trying to decide if I could run my ten-mile race in two weeks or if I should defer that one too. I figured if I could run five or six miles after being out of practice then I could get to ten for a race.

You guys. I knew as soon as I set out that it was good. I ran. Without pain. Without weakness. Without walking. I almost started laughing around mile four because I was so relieved.

I ended up running 5.5 miles and could have gone farther. I’m working very hard at not doing too much too fast though so I didn’t push farther.

I’m so happy though. I think I didn’t realize how fully depressed about it I had been until that really started to lift today. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders (or my hip, as it were).

I have a long road ahead of me to get back to where I was and and an even longer one to get to my January marathon. But for the first time in more than a month, I feel like I can run there.

All the Fun Things, Wisconsin Version, Part I

Now that we’ve been home for a month, I think I’m just about ready to write about it. Finally. I am mostly doing this because the last time I told Alex I’d written a post he looked so hopeful and said, “About vacation?” so now I HAVE to write about it, but if you are interested in hearing aaaaaalllllllll about our vacation, please do follow along.

When last we left our intrepid vacationers, Team Stimey had arrived at the shore of the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. Alex has a wonderful and generous aunt and uncle who have a home on the beach there and they were lovely enough to let us stay there. And when I say right on the beach, I mean Right On The Beach.

Photo of a sandy path leading down to an expanse of water. You can see three tiny shapes in the water.

I was right next to the porch when I took this photo of my munchkins in their happy place—a freshwater beach.

Alex and I were pretty happy there too.

Photo of Alex and I sitting on the beach smiling.

We were slightly more afraid of the freezing cold water than our children were.

Both of us did work our way up to swimming with the kiddos. I have to say that they’re a little more aggressive with their splashing and shoving around of my inner tube (with me in it) while humming Ride of the Valkyries than I would care for.

Photo of my feet hanging over the edge of my inner tube. All that is visible in the photo other than my fee it water aand sky.

I still got my chill on though.

We didn’t just do that though. We did everything that was fun. Really. Everything. See below.

Inner Tubes!

I mentioned that my children used me as a battering ram while I was trying to float around in my inner tube, but they were used for lots of other things as well. In an example of perfect synchronicity, our hosts had exactly three inner tubes, giving us plenty of opportunity to do tricks…

Photo of Alex holding an inner tube with Jack jumping through it.

Just like a porpoise!


Photo of Jack wrapped in a towel and sitting in an inner tube on the beach.


carry them around…

Photo of Jack walking down the beach carrying an inner tube.

It was really nice of our hosts to have only photogenic water toys.

and be a vehicle for the Elusive Meowmere.

Photo of Jack lying stomach-down in an inner tube.

Or at least that is what Jack called himself. I’m not entirely sure what a Meowmere is, but apparently it is rare.


Because we didn’t want to travel in a minivan full of five cats, three of whom don’t get along in an incredibly violent way, we had to leave our cats at home (and one at a boarding facility—see above about violence). Fortunately, our first destination came with a cat, because you really don’t want to go cold turkey on something like that.

Photo of a gray cat sitting next to Quinn's stuffed cat. Sam's head is poking in from the side.

Said cat did NOT care for Quinn’s stuffed replica of Oreo. Said cat hissed loudly at Quinn’s stuffed replica of Oreo and then didn’t go near it again.

Strawberry picking!

We headed to a pick-your-own strawberry field shortly after arriving, mostly as a cautionary tale for all the families with younger kids that were there.

Photo of Sam standing in a strawberry field.

Sam picked one strawberry at a time and then tossed them carelessly toward our collection box.

To the other families, we were all, “Here’s a grim vision of your future,” as Sam loudly told us how if he’d planned our vacation, we would have toured a series of Hot Topic stores in the northern Midwest instead of doing something ridiculous like picking fruit that he doesn’t even want to eat in the hot sun gawd mom you’re the worst.

And then Jack, in a move that really pleased every one of the young children quietly picking strawberries as well as their parents, put a strawberry in Alex’s pants and then announced loudly, “Dad! I put a strawberry in your pants!”

Photo of Quinn, Sam, Jack, and Alex in the field. Jack and Alex are squatting next to each other, but Alex is facing away from Jack.

See Jack eyeing Alex’s butt there? He had an agenda.

And then Alex took the strawberry out of his pants and put it in our collection box.

A grim, grim vision.

Quinn, the only one of our children who actually eats strawberries, worked hard to collect fruit.

Photo of a strawberry field with Quinn crouched in it.

He clearly sensed an opportunity to be “the good one.”


Regardless of opportunities to humiliate their parents in front of their peers, the munchkins enjoyed their time at the beach more than anything—and not just for the swimming opportunities. It also gave them the opportunity to beat the shit out of each other.

Well. It gave Sam the opportunity to beat the shit out of Quinn’s head.

Seven different photos of Sam beating Quinn with an inner tube.

I kept trying to defend Quinn, but Quinn kept laughing and saying it was okay, so I was reduced to trying to tell Sam to just not whack him TOO hard in the head.


Team Stimey doesn’t do vacations without fires, so it was fortunate for our hosts that they had a firepit so we didn’t have to burn their home down to make our s’mores.

Because we love fires so much, we make sure to practice vigilant fire safety.

Photo of Quinn by a metal-ringed firepit. He is very close to said firepit and is poking at the fire with a stick.

Like we didn’t let Quinn actually climb INTO the firepit.

Our first fire of vacation resulted in like, a hundred and eighteen photographs, including maybe the most emo photo I have ever taken or will ever take of Sam.

Photo of Sam with his hair over his half of his face ans looking sideways at the camera in a fire-glowing light.

Emo Sam says, “I feeeeeeeeeel things.”

Sometimes when you’re on vacation, you get sooooo relaxed that it is hard to maintain verticality.

Photo of Jack lying on his side wrapped in a blanket in the sand and the glow of the fire.



One of the benefits of vacationing in Wisconsin is that the kiddos get to spend a few days with their grandma, whom they adore.

Quinn sitting by the fire with Alex's mom.

Super cozy!


My little punk asshole of a kid not only took my spot and refused to get up, but he also made fun of me as he did it. Jerk.

Photo of Quinn sitting in a chair under a blanket, holding a book, and drinking a soda.

He was all, “Can you bring me another Diet Coke?” Jackass.

And the rest of the jerks in my family laughed and laughed and laughed.

Independence Day!

I know it doesn’t seem like we should have been on vacation on July 4th what with me just writing my recap now, but it’s true. The great thing about being on a vacation in a small town on the 4th is that you get to experience a Small Town Fourth™. We headed down to downtown Sheboygan to eat dinner by the waterfront where there were to be fireworks later that evening. In a happy cowinkydink, there was also a little carnival right there as well.

Photo of Sam and I. His head is on my shoulder.

You can’t tell from this photo, but this is Sam and I on a Tilt-a-Whirl before it started. I used to LOVE the Tilt-a-Whirl. Now it turns out that Tilt-a-Whirls nauseate me. Ask me how I know.

The kiddos really enjoy the carnival games where the carnies basically steal your money in exchange for letting you throw a projectile of some sort at a target. Sam and Quinn worked together to earn enough tickets to buy a gift for me just in case I was missing my cat Sharky.

Photo of Quinn holding a stuffed shark.

Finn spent the rest of vacation as our car dashboard lookout

Quinn had gotten a giant glow stick on the last day of school from a teacher and he carefully saved it for July 4th. Through some miracle, we remembered to take it on vacation and to the fireworks. The thing had a $1 price tag on it. Jack and Quinn played with it joyously, running around a field for a really long time. I need to buy more of those.

Photo of Quinn and Jack against a dark sky. They each have a hand on a large green glowstick raised above their head.

In rod we trust!

Sam also really loved the lead-up to the fireworks, actively participating in family activities and enthusiastically joining us in conversation—oh, wait.

Photo of Sam sitting in a dark field looking at his phone. The glow is lighting up his face.

Evidently this is the teenager version of a glow stick.

Cattails! Cows! Dead birds in the road!

The day after the fourth, our little cottage was a swirling sea of conflicting access needs, wherein Jack and Quinn were coming close to blows and Alex, who was trying to take a conference call, had that air about him that led me to believe if I didn’t take action that he would get in the car and drive away, abandoning his family for good.

Not wanting this to happen, I grabbed Quinn and headed out on a walk to see a pasture of cows I’d noticed on a run the day before. En route to said cows, we experienced ALL of rural Wisconsin.

We had a slow race with a tractor.

Photo of Quinn walking on the side of a road holding a cattail. In the background you can see a tractor.

It never caught us. But we didn’t catch it either.

We discovered what is inside cattails.

Photo of Quinn holding a cattail that he has broken open.

Regular ol’ plant innards.

We found a dead pigeon.

Photo of Quinn standing on a road looking at a dead bird.

Yep. Dead.

And then…the coup de grace…the cows.

Two photos 1) Quinn smiling happily 2)Quinn looking at a few cows.

I wish anything made me as happy as looking at cows makes Quinn.

On the way back, all we did was hitchhike.

Photo of Quinn with his thumb out next to a maroon van.

Fortunately it was our car.

German food!

Okay, so eating the German food was not super fun. I don’t know that eating German food is something I would want to do regularly. But! The waitress was telling us about some of the appetizers and she mentioned a giant pretzel and held her hands about a foot apart and Alex was all, “I don’t think we need that,” and I said, “No, no, no, we will be purchasing the giant pretzel,” and so we did and if you ask Jack what his favorite part of vacation was, he will say, “The giant pretzel.”

Giant pretzels!

Photo of a big pretzel with bowls of sauce on it.

Okay, it looks kinda big…

Photo of the pretzel. This photo includes Quinn in the frame, which shows how big the pretzel really is.

…okay, once you add Quinn for scale, THAT’S A GIANT PRETZEL!

It was super goddamn delicious too.

Concert/Embarrassing your first born!

I may have mentioned once or twice that Sam is super into music. One of his favorite bands is All Time Low and they happened to be opening for Blink-182 in Milwaukee when we were in Wisconsin. Sam convinced us to let him go and he decided that I should be the parent who took him.

Big mistake. Huge.

What’s worse than your mom going to a concert with you?

Photo of Sam and I in front of the venue. I have a big smile on my face and am giving an obnoxious thumbs up. Sam looks like he'd like to die.

This mom going to a concert with you.

I managed to calm down a little bit after that and worked hard on not embarrassing him too much. We ended up having a lot of fun at the concert, but I think I might have successfully gotten myself out of being the concert-attending parent.


We drank all kinds of fun drinks on vacation. I’ve just really started to enjoy beer flights, partly because if you don’t like a particular beer, you can make your husband drink it and move on to another one and partly because you get to feel like a giant while you drink it.

Three photos 1) a beer flight 2) a fancy bloody mary 3) my beer and legs on the beach

I always really want to like Bloody Marys and I always end up disappointed. This one here was without a doubt the most beautiful drink I’ve ever had though.

Regarding that giant thing:

Photo of Alex drinking a beer from a big ceramic mug.

Normal-sized beer, normal-sized Alex.

But then…

Photo of Alex drinking a tiny glass of beer from a beer flight. Quinn is giving him bunny ears.

Tiny-sized beer, giant-sized Alex.

Goofing off!


What? Were we supposed to abandon the leftover whipped cream just because we ran out of strawberry shortcake?

Family time!


I guarantee you, there ain’t no five of us sitting around playing Yahtzee in Maryland.

Did I mention the beach?

My kids love the beach. My kids LOVE the beach. They played on the sand and in the water for hours and hours and hours. They were so purely happy that it made me so very happy just to watch them be happy.

Photo of Quinn sitting in the water right at the edge of the beach.

Quinn loves the water more than anyone.

Photo of Jack, Alex, and Sam building sand castles.

I don’t know what they like more—building sand structures or crushing sand structures.

Photo of my three kids running in the water.

I love how they all get along in the water. No bickering, just joy.

Photo of Quinn sitting in an inner tube and Jack standing behind it.

I don’t even know what they do out there. Sometimes Quinn just jumps up and down in the water. It’s weird and charming and totally happy.

Quinn drawing in the sand with a stick. He has written "save me."

Quinn brought home the stick he used to write this. It was one of his souvenirs. It’s in his room right now.

Photo of Jack in sun speckled water.

I just can’t get enough of photographing my kids in the water because they are so happy and beautiful.

These goofballs!

Selfie of all five of us in the water.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a selfie of five people while you’re floating in an inner tube in the bright bright sun? (Answer: hard.)

I’m going to stop here and continue the rest of our vacation tale in a subsequent post. I predict that will happen prior to Labor Day. Maybe.